A member of the Borage family which includes forget-me-nots and bluebells, giant-trumpets (Macromeria veridiflora) are found in meadows and clearings in New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico. A tall perennial herb with trumpet shaped flowers, this example was photographed in a high mountain meadow in the Pecos wilderness of New Mexico at 8000 ft (see July 12 post).
I was struck by the subtle beauty of this plant, with its rich green leaves streaked in silver, its coating of fuzz and its delicate cream, nodding trumpets. And for its identification I owe a special thanks to Chick Keller of the Native Wildflower Society of New Mexico.
Giant trumpets are odorless, range in color from cream to yellow, produce large amounts of nectar and, at least in part, are pollinated by hummingbirds. This seemed surprising since we commonly associate hummingbird plants with reds, orange and bright yellows. Both rufous and broad-tailed hummingbirds were observed pollinating this species in Arizona in a July study in the late 60’s. And this sparked another question. Didn’t my field guides show the rufous hummingbird spent its summer breeding season in the northwest? I consulted Audubon. The rufous hummingbird is the species with the longest migration in relation to its size, wintering in Mexico and breeding in northwest North America as far north as Alaska. Its breeding season begins March through May in a climate where the warm season is short but daylight is long. Some members of the species begin their southern migration as early as July which helps explain why the rufous hummingbird is such a significant pollinator in the west.
What also gets your attention--the rufous hummingbird is declining. One reason sighted is the disruption of nectar corridors. Hummingbirds and other pollinating species, such as bats, are dependent on clusters of nectar bearing plants during migration which is timed when plants are at their highest nectar production--refueling stepping stones along their journey. Anything that diminishes these pockets of plant communities also risks the survival of a number of species dependent upon them for nourishment.
To read more about nectar corridors visit NBII’s (National Biological Information Infrastructure) page on pollinators.